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July 30, 2014

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After three years, Don Marrandino leaves post in Atlantic City

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Steve Marcus

Don Marrandino, left, and Rick Mazer pose during an interview at the Flamingo in August. Marrandino left his post as president of five Harrah’s hotels on the Strip and heading to an expanded role for Harrah’s in Atlantic City. Rick Mazer, formerly Indiana regional president and general manager of Horseshoe Hammond and Horseshoe Indiana, succeeded Marrandino as regional president of Harrah’s Las Vegas, Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and O’Sheas.

A Harrah's Shuffle

Don Marrandino is leaving his post as president of five Harrah's hotels on the Strip and heading to an expanded role for the company in Atlantic City. Rick Mazer, currently Indiana regional president and general manager of Horseshoe Hammond and Horseshoe Indiana, will succeed Marrandino in Las Vegas as Harrah's regional president.

Don Marrandino is a free agent. The former Caesars Entertainment executive with strong ties to Las Vegas has resigned his post as the head of Caesars Entertainment properties in his hometown of Atlantic City.

As first reported by the Press of Atlantic City, Marrandino's resignation was tendered Friday. His most recent position in Las Vegas was as president of Flamingo, Harrah's, Imperial Palace, Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon and O'Shea's. He was replaced by the current president of that five-resort cluster, Rick Mazer, in August 2009, as Marrandino was charged with heading up the company's Atlantic City hotels: Caesars Atlantic City, Bally's Atlantic City, Showboat Casino Hotel and Harrah's Resort Atlantic City.

Aside from a brief stint in Lake Tahoe, where he ran Harrah’s and Harvey’s Lake Tahoe, Marrandino lived and worked in Las Vegas for 20 years before heading back to Atlantic City. He was a top exec at Station Casinos, Wynn Las Vegas and the Hard Rock Hotel before being hired by then-Harrah's Entertainment in 2003.

No reason was given for Marrandino's departure, although the company said in a news release that he was leaving to explore "new opportunities." Marrandino could not be reached on his cell phone this morning.

Many of Marrandino's friends and colleagues are hoping that he might find his way back to Las Vegas, where for two decades he was one of the city's more charismatic executives, owning an acute affection for celebrities of all ilk. Marrandino still owns a residence at Regency Towers in Las Vegas and counts as his friends Donny and Marie Osmond (booked into the Flamingo during his tenure there), Toby Keith (who opened his Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill at Harrah's when Marrandino was president) and Sammy Hagar (who now does business with the company with his Cabo Wabo tavern and restaurant at Planet Hollywood).

Marrandino continued to partner with high-profile artists in Atlantic City. This year, Caesars brought Guns N’ Roses to the House of Blues in Showboat Casino Hotel and Van Halen and Madonna to Boardwalk Hall (long the home of the Miss America Pageants). Also well-connected in the sports world, Marrandino headed up the negotiations that brought the Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker middleweight title bout to Boardwalk Hall in 2012, an event that drew nearly 5,000 fans.

Caesars also boosted charter flights to Atlantic City, an idea spearheaded by Marrandino, and proposed the construction of a $135 million conference center that is expected to begin this year. More recently, the Caesars Entertainment hotels were hammered by Hurricane Sandy, which flooded many hotels, businesses and homes in the region.

Also, as the Press of Atlantic City story notes, Marrandino prompted $50,000 in fines by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in November against Harrah’s Resort. The executive reportedly instructed dealers to deliver $2,000 in gaming chips and betting coupons to an unidentified celebrity at Harrah's in August, according to state regulators. The individual was wiped out in two hours after faltering at blackjack and roulette (so reads the division's complaint) and had not properly paid for the chips and coupons. Thus, they were handed out in violation of casino regulations, according to the enforcement division.

In a statement, Caesars President of Operations Tom Jenkin said of Marrandino: “Throughout his career with Caesars, Don has been a great partner and contributor, displaying a dedication to service and a knack for cultivating innovative entertainment strategies."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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